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Lockdown Set to Last Beyond Easter

The goalposts are moving yet again, according to reports in the papers today. The Mail has the story.

Lockdown measures could last “beyond Easter” despite the rollout of the Covid vaccine after the deadliest day on record saw 1,610 new victims.

Ministers have been warned that, with the possible exception of schools, there is unlikely to be any relaxation of the lockdown at the first formal “review point” in the middle of next month. 

Reports yesterday claimed that Boris Johnson was targeting Good Friday on April 2nd as the earliest date for a significant lifting of the lockdown.

The PM has started “top secret” planning for millions to meet their families over Easter, according to the Sun.

But several sources told the Mail that even this date could look optimistic if the vaccine rollout ran into difficulties.

One attendee at a Government summit with business leaders on Monday claimed ministers had warned that heavy restrictions could remain until May or even June. 

Concerns yesterday grew that the rollout of the jab had already stalled as the number being vaccinated dropped for the third day in a row.

Around 204,000 people were given their first dose, slumping from 225,000 on Sunday, 277,000 on Saturday and a high of 324,000 on Friday.  

Meanwhile Britain maintains the worst Covid death rate in the world. Tuesday’s new daily record marked a sharp 30% rise on the 1,243 announced on the same day last week and is almost double the number of victims from a fortnight ago, when there were 860. 

More than 4.26 million people have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine through the NHS programme – one in every 16 people in the UK – which makes it one of the best covered countries in the world. 

But to hit the Government’s target of 13.9 million people by February 15th, which is the threshold at which officials will consider relaxing lockdown, Britain must manage 360,000 jabs per day from today onwards – 2.5million per week.

Last week it averaged 254,000 per day and hit a total 1.77million. The daily requirement will increase for every day that it isn’t hit.

The Covid Recovery Group of anti-lockdown MPs has started upping the pressure to get a move on. The Telegraph has more.

Boris Johnson faces growing pressure from Tory MPs to set out an exit strategy from lockdown based on vaccine rollout forecasts and using March 8th as the target date to start easing the restrictions.

Conservatives in the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG) highlighted scientific suggestions that the most vulnerable Britons will achieve a significant level of immunity from the virus three weeks after receiving their first dose of the jab.

Since the Government has pledged to vaccinate the 14 million most vulnerable Britons by February 15th, ministers should prepare to ease the rules three weeks later on March 8th, the MPs said.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, reiterated this week that the mortality rate is expected to fall by 88% once the most vulnerable cohort, which includes all adults over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable, has received an initial dose of the vaccine by the middle of next month.

What the CRG haven’t factored in are the growing doubts about the efficacy of only one dose of the vaccine (on which more below).

There’s also the question of hospitals. Robert Peston points out in the Spectator that it’s not the over 80s who are filling up the ICUs.

If prioritisation was ordered purely on the basis of reducing pressure on the NHS, yet another ranking of vaccinations might well have been ordered. What’s relevant, for example, is that 52% of coronavirus sufferers in intensive care are aged between 50 and 69, 21.5% are aged 70 to 79 and just 4.6% who are over 80 (according to authoritative data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre). 

If the imperative was to reduce pressure on intensive care, those aged 50 to 69 would be receiving the vaccine now, and those aged 60 to 69 (the age group most likely to be in intensive care) would be right at the front of the queue. In the end, the PM chose his very simple and easy-to-understand instruction, which may well be the best politics. But we won’t know till we are through this crisis whether it is the optimal route back to some semblance of normal life. 

Worth reading Peston’s piece in full.

Stop Press: Sign the petition on the Parliament website: “After the vaccine roll-out to high risk groups, remove all COVID-19 restrictions“.

Lockdowners Should Admit It: There Was No Christmas Surge

The BBC has run an analysis asking whether the much-hyped Christmas surge – supposedly resulting from mass household mixing over the festive season – actually materialised. No sign of it, they say.

It is almost a month since Christmas was ‘downsized’ across the country. But in many parts of the UK, people were allowed to meet in Christmas ‘bubbles’ – if only for just one day. So what impact did this have? The overall picture shows a sharp increase in cases around this time.

However, a closer look at the numbers suggests this trend was already happening and was probably caused by the new, more infectious variant of the virus rather than increased contact between people.

It’s not as though people didn’t mix: “A survey from the Office for National Statistics suggests that roughly half the population in Great Britain who were allowed to hold gatherings did so.”

This tallies with what the BBC found when it examined the question of a supposed Thanksgiving spike in America at the end of November. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (among others) claimed: “We saw in Canada and the US, huge spikes in infections after Thanksgiving.” However, the BBC found: “Looking at the combined data for the whole of the US, there’s no clear indication that infection rates accelerated following the Thanksgiving holiday.”

So, were the lockdowners restrained and accurate in their predictions about the risks of mixing over Christmas, as they are always telling sceptics we must be? Let’s see.

The Health Service Journal ran a joint editorial with the BMJ – the second in their history – outspoken in its political advocacy and unequivocal about the risk of mixing over Christmas:

The Government was too slow to introduce restrictions in the spring and again in the autumn. It should now reverse its rash decision to allow household mixing and instead extend the tiers over the five-day Christmas period in order to bring numbers down in the advance of a likely third wave. 

Anouchka Grose in the Guardian wrote a particularly alarmist piece.

Anybody with any kind of conscience is beating their brain, calculating all eventualities that may result from showing up for lunch in a week’s time – one of which involves inadvertently killing your aged parents… Politicians have the option to look at the numbers, listen to the experts, explain the deadly consequences of big gatherings, develop rules for everyone’s wellbeing and trust that most of us will be happy to go along with them. This is precisely what happened in March, albeit after an extended bout of burbling and bluster. And, as one glance at the graphs shows, it worked. How hard can it be to convince people that the same magic could happen twice? Alongside the roll-out of the vaccine, we would see cases drop, rather than increase, in the new year. If Johnson isn’t prepared to do it, can we just agree among ourselves that Christmas is cancelled?

In the spirit of Ipso demanding a retraction of Toby’s Telegraph article on herd immunity following a complaint for supposed errors of science and failures of foresight, perhaps a complaint is now due to Ipso for this guilt-inducing piece of failed prophecy. How many Guardian readers needlessly sacrificed the chance of seeing their loved ones on Christmas Day after reading Anouchka’s article?

Less hysterical, but no less inaccurate, was this Observer editorial.

The Government was right to immediately impose tougher tier 4 restrictions on these parts of the country and elsewhere to restrict indoors household mixing to Christmas Day only. It is clear that without these measures there would have been a huge risk of a rise in infection and death rates in January and February as a result of intergenerational mixing over Christmas, particularly endangering older people and those with pre-existing health conditions. … The fact that vaccines are being rolled out to high-priority groups, with more comprehensive coverage months away, underlines how ill-judged it would be to trigger a larger-than-necessary spike in the death rate with the end of this period of social restrictions in sight.

But far from a not “larger-than-necessary” spike there was no deadly spike at all.

Perhaps the most egregious offenders were Independent SAGE. According to City AM:

[Independent SAGE] said the new variant requires a “complete rethink of all mitigation strategies”. Independent Sage has said all regions of England should be placed in Tier 4 to suppress the virus “as much as possible”, and Christmas Day mixing should be cancelled, apart from with pre-existing bubbles. … Independent SAGE continued: “Christmas Day mixing of households indoors for prolonged periods of time, as allowed in tiers 1 to 3 in England and across the devolved nations, sets the scene for thousands of super-spreading events. In the context of the new strain, this is incredibly dangerous.

Examples could be multiplied. Lockdowners love to point the finger at the failed predictions of sceptics. But do they check their own rear-view mirror? How much revisiting of their own prognostications have they done to see if they hit the mark? Or is it one rule for the sceptics and another rule for the lockdown zealots?

In truth, Christmas was an important mass experiment that put the claims of lockdowners and sceptics to the test. In the run-up to both Christmas and Thanksgiving lockdowners predicted a death surge following household mixing, larger or smaller depending on how long the mixing lasted. In both cases their predictions failed to materialise at all – even the BBC says so. And that means their theory of what “controls the virus” is faulty. Mass household mingling did not lead to “deadly consequences”. In fact, the infection rate began to slowdown in the week after Christmas, as the graph from the ZOE Covid Symptom Study App shows.

This is another strong indication that lockdown is not holding back the flood. Time for the lockdowners to accept it.

Stop Press: A Guardian editorial today continues the increasingly deranged war against sceptics for daring to question the Government line: “A reckoning is due with ‘lockdown sceptics’ in politics and the media, who fomented public distrust of official advice and encouraged dangerous risk-taking.” Yet “official advice” is often wrong and changes all the time. Funny how quick some supposed supporters of free speech are to find reasons why wrongthink must be punished.

New Study Claims to Find Masks Work – Despite All the Evidence they Don’t

A new major study came out yesterday purporting to show that masks reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Published in the Lancet and funded by Google, this is the kind of study that gets listened to. The headline result, reported in the Mail, is that a 10% rise in self-reported mask wearing is associated with a three-fold increase in the odds of keeping R below 1.

How, you might be wondering, can a study show masks are effective when so many other studies show they aren’t? Why is California, with mandatory face masks and a younger population, suffering worse than Florida (which is also more densely populated)? What about the Danmask study which shows that surgical masks give no statistically significant protection to the wearer against infection?

They get round the Danmask study by claiming that the point of masks is to prevent infectious people infecting others, not to protect the wearer.

These masks are intended to serve as a mechanical barrier that prevents the spread of virus-laden droplets expelled by the user. Therefore, their purpose is to reduce transmission events by the individual, rather than to protect the individual from infection. Accordingly, face masks are advocated as a source of collective benefit that is most successful with high amounts of adoption.

There is scant evidence they succeed in that respect either of course. But let’s move on to look at the study.

Figure thumbnail gr2

This is the main results graph showing how R differs by mask use. The first thing that stands out is the variance: each column interval contains a wide distribution of points. A second is that the average R values are within a narrow range: they all lie between 1.0 and 1.1. That’s not exactly a strong impact. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that this graph shows the correlation claimed. Which is surprising because, as the graphs below show, international evidence is that mask mandates did not prevent strong autumn and winter surges, and that comparisons with non-mandate countries show no obvious benefit from masks.

Mask mandates and coronavirus infections (Source: Yinon Weiss)

Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to drill down into the detail of the study to find out how they have come up with the answer they did. It is a model-based study with a large number of assumptions, including an attempt to control for the role of social distancing using mobility data and a “smoothing parameter for political party identification based on aggregates of SurveyMonkey research surveys”. Oddly, R is not treated as a continuous variable but is simplified to be either below 1 or not: “Rt was aggregated to the week and dichotomised as epidemic slowing (1 if Rt<1) or epidemic at maintenance or growing (0 if Rt≥1)”. Anyhow, here’s my take insofar as I can work out what it is they’ve done.

Each point in the above graph is a US county. Individuals across the 50 states were invited to participate in an online poll between June 3rd and July 27th and 11% of those asked chose to do so, amounting to 378,207 people. Only 4·7% of the respondents reported they were “not likely at all” to wear a mask in the two settings considered (grocery store and visiting friends and family), suggesting a strong sample bias towards mask wearers in those who responded to the survey. Each county could have as few as 10 individual responses from it, and it appears only responses within a two week window were split into counties for this purpose: “Survey responses and validation interviews were aggregated by county (restricted to counties with 10 or more observations, n=1055) between July 2nd and July 14th, 2020”. This suggests the sample size for each point in the graph was not large. The study also used raw case data, which isn’t great when testing was being ramped up during the summer.

None of this reassures me that the results are sound. My suspicion is that the study suffers from a number of serious problems hidden among its modelling assumptions and complex statistical techniques. Here’s one that stands out. There may be more – do email us if you spot any.

In July, at the time of the study, the southern United States – where mask mandates and usage are generally less common – was experiencing a summer surge in infections, while other states, with typically higher masks usage, weren’t so much. A snapshot at this point in time would therefore have been likely to find a correlation between not wearing masks and a higher R, but that would just be an artefact of when the survey was done rather than anything universal. Indeed, an earlier study which looked at how masks affected R in different American counties had to be withdrawn shortly after it was published because the beneficial effect it had claimed to find was at that moment being undermined by a new autumn surge.

It’s worth recalling why masks don’t work. Masks are poor at preventing transmission because of the high risk of contamination and because they are often made of cloth (which has poor filtration properties) and not properly fitted. They can prevent some droplets from escaping but not aerosols, so it does not take long for the air in a poorly ventilated space to reach a dangerous viral load if infected persons are present, regardless of any face coverings. This study does nothing to change that underlying problem.

Second Vaccine Doses Cancelled

A reader sent us the email he sent to his MP, Laura Trott, to complain about his mother being denied the second dose of the vaccine as promised.

I am emailing on behalf of my 85 year-old Mother who is a constituent of yours.

My Mum had her first Covid vaccination on December 22nd at the Princess Royal University Hospital at Farnborough. Her second vaccination was scheduled for today and she arrived at the hospital at the scheduled time. She was then told she couldn’t have her vaccination and her appointment had been rescheduled for March 2nd. A delay of 43 days, over six weeks. Apparently a “letter is in the post” informing her of this but it didn’t arrive in time.

We are both furious.

Firstly, it is unconscionable to build up the hopes of an elderly person at times like this and then let them down, especially as she has friends no older than her who live in different postcodes but have now had their second vaccination, given at the originally pre-arranged times.

Secondly, she was told at the time of the first vaccination that she would be having the second 27 days later and gave implied consent for this, knowing that the vaccinations are supposed to be given three weeks apart. She did not consent to having them given 10 weeks apart.

Thirdly, there is no trial data to show what the efficacy of the vaccine is if it is not given three weeks apart. It now feels like she is part of a live experiment.

This is all totally outrageous. Not to mention that she also made an unnecessary journey which we are all supposed to avoid at the moment so that we can protect the NHS, because of a fault by the NHS. And to a hospital too, where her chances of picking up a nosocomial infection may have been non-trivial.

If you are able to tell me why she couldn’t get her second vaccination as originally scheduled (and yet her friends have), I would be grateful.

Stop Press: The Spectator reports on a study by Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv that suggests a single dose is not as effective as the Government has been told.

Researchers studied the level of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies in the blood of 102 of the first 1,000 staff at the centre to be given both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. While the first dose did produce antibodies, they discovered that levels of antibodies jumped by between six and 12-fold after the second dose. After the second dose, they said, antibodies were higher than in people who had developed immunity by recovering from the virus itself…

Pfizer has warned the UK government that its Phase 3 trials did not provide data for anything other than its recommended regimen of two doses, 21 days apart. The government argues that it can protect more people in a shorter time by delaying the second dose. However, Israel’s COVID-19 tsar has suggested that the first Pfizer dose may be less effective than originally thought, which could potentially complicate the UK’s current strategy of delaying the second dose.

Oddly, delaying doses of the second vaccine is an official policy that the Guardian is happy to publish pieces railing against. I guess some scepticism of the Government line is acceptable in the Guardian provided it enables the writer to signal that he or she is even more pro-vaccinations and pro-lockdown than Matt Hancock.

The Communist Deregulationists

Today we’re publishing a new piece by the academic economist who writes for Lockdown Sceptics. It’s about the unhappy provenance of the Government’s Covid policy and its tragic incoherence with the deregulation agenda.

Now consider the absurdity of the Government’s current deregulation agenda. They are looking at rules around work breaks, while literally closing restaurants and pubs. They think they are actually going to rejuvenate the British economy by closely examining builders’ smoke breaks – while at the same time massively restricting physical movement and banning many services entirely.

The distance between rhetoric and action is so large as to be bizarre. If you took the Johnson government at their word you would assume that Britain was on its way toward some sort of libertarian experiment in free market economics. Yet if you look at what the Government is doing it is far closer to what the Chavez and then Maduro government did to Venezuela.

I do not write this for rhetorical effect. Personally, I think many economists exaggerate the positive impact of deregulation. True, it is sometimes needed, but often it is simply done to check an ideological box; I do not believe that regulations on disabled toilets impact the economy one iota. I do not think, however, that economists exaggerate the negative effects of communistic interventions in the economy. Imposing extreme, top-down controls on how people live, on how they work, on how they buy and sell is a sure path to total impoverishment.

There is simply no analogy outside of communist control economies for what the Johnson Government is doing to this country. Even when the Churchill Government took over the British economy during World War 2, the controls were nowhere near as onerous. Rations were imposed, so that the troops got more, say, petrol than the average British subject, true, but ultimately people could move basically as they pleased and non-rationed goods could be bought and sold freely. The system was also rational: the Government needed to move certain goods from the domestic consumer market to the front and the ration system did that well.

By contrast, the current communistic-style regulations are – as they usually are in communist countries – utterly absurd. They change seemingly with Johnson’s mood. No one knows what they will be tomorrow, much less next week. Business owners and consumers cannot even try to plan around them because they flail around wildly. Better regulations to utterly demolish British living standards could not be dreamed up by the country’s worst enemies.

Worth reading in full.

Burn the Sceptics!

Brendan O’Neill in spiked has written a cracking piece likening the mob justice being meted out to sceptics to the witch hunts of yesteryear.

We have entered a new era of demonology. The hunt is on for heretics and witches who might be held responsible for our current predicament, for the plague of Covid. As in pre-modern times, sinful speakers and thinkers, those who dare to bristle against the political or scientific consensus, are being demonised and publicly shamed as assistants of the plague, as Covid’s willing helpers. They have ‘blood on their hands’, the lockdown fanatics cry, blissfully unaware of how similar they sound to those who in earlier times of disease would drag eccentrics to the stocks in the warped belief that those eccentrics either brought the plague or at least aided its spread.

It is hard to think of any other political constituency in recent times who have been as thoroughly demonised as lockdown sceptics. Climate-change sceptics are up there, of course. Deniers of the cult of genderfluidity have had a severe hammering, too. But that all pales, if not into insignificance then at least into the background, in comparison with the war of barbs and defamation against anyone who questions whether lockdown is the right response to COVID-19.

These people are branded “Covid deniers”. They are “dangerous”. Their words kill. They have blood on their hands. They have a “hell of a lot to answer for”, says chief demonologist Neil O’Brien, Tory MP for Harborough, inflaming the idea that these people and their sinful speech benefit the plague and directly help to cause injury and death.

So successful has been the campaign of demonisation against lockdown sceptics that even that title – lockdown sceptic – has been sullied beyond recognition. It is now taken to include not only thoughtful people who question the policy of complete shutdowns, but also those who doubt the existence of Covid-19 and anti-vaxxers who think the Covid jab will come with a microchip so that Bill Gates can monitor our every move for the rest of time.

This lumping together of everyone from Oxford scientists Sunetra Gupta and Carl Heneghan to the anonymous bloke on Twitter who swears blind he knows five people who have been made gravely ill by the vaccine confirms that the aim here is to vilify scepticism across the board. Raise so much as a peep of criticism of the current Covid strategy and you’re as bad as the morons who say Covid isn’t real.

The demonisation of lockdown sceptics intensifies daily. They are branded “agents of disinformation” (the Observer) who are “dangerous” (the New Statesman). They are killing people, we are told. The reason COVID-19 is spreading again, and killing large numbers, is “because this metropolitan clique of elites put forth falsehoods and misinterpretations”, says one columnist (my italics).

This is, to be frank, unhinged. It is unreasonable in the extreme to blame the spread of Covid on sceptics who have very little influence in public discussion. Virtually the entire political establishment, the vast bulk of the media and every online ‘influencer’ favours lockdown. The message we receive constantly – on TV, online, in the press – is to stay home, be good, don’t kill people. It is a fantasy to believe that the voices of isolated and demonised sceptics are cutting through this conformist fog and inspiring people to recklessly spread the plague.

The crushing of dissent in the dubious name of public health is becoming a major threat to the functioning of a free society, he argues.

This demonisation of sceptics must stop. The majority of us who question the policy of lockdown accept that Covid is real and dangerous. spiked has described the Covid pandemic as a very significant health challenge from the very beginning. We also accept that restrictions on everyday life will be necessary. What we question is the policy of blanket lockdowns, the use of the politics of terror to scare the population into complying, and the war on dissent. It is perfectly legitimate – essential, in fact – to question these things.

You want to talk about sin? Okay. It is a far greater sin to crush dissenting opinion than it is to say things about COVID-19 that later prove to be wrong. The destruction of free discussion harms society far more than incorrect opinion or predictions do, because it limits the space for critical interrogation of public policy and for entertaining the possibility that what we are doing is wrong. That is what spiked wants: the entertainment of possibilities, the cherishing of open and rigorous inquiry, and the flourishing of heresy. Time will tell if lockdown was wrong, but we know right now that the campaign of demonology is wrong.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Freddie Sayers in UnHerd adds his voice to the defence of the lockdown heretics.

As Hume put in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, to be sceptical is “to begin with clear and self-evident principles, to advance by timorous and sure steps, to review frequently our conclusions, and examine accurately all their consequences”. At the time, this was radical. It encompassed everything progressive about the Enlightenment and the emergence of the scientific method. But it also seems eminently sensible. Who wouldn’t want to be a sceptic today?

Apparently, quite a lot of people. Scepticism is suddenly perilously out of fashion. More than that, it is now deemed dangerous. The reason? The rise of the “lockdown sceptics”, who in recent weeks have taken a battering for having made claims about the virus that turned out not to be true.

In a sense, this is what should happen in the scientific method – commentators and experts being held to account for predictions they make. But the ferocity of the attacks has left us at a place where all questioning groups are subjected to the same moral condemnation. Whether they are pundits peddling conspiracies, credentialed scientists recommending alternative approaches, or intellectuals worried about the political implications – “Lockdown sceptics” is used interchangeably for them all. Any dissent will mark you out as part of the global “anti-science” movement. So sceptic has become a dirty word.

Worth reading in full.

Hong Kong Mortality in 2020 Lower Than Previous Two Years

A reader who lives in Hong Kong has sent us this comment that he received in an email from his GP yesterday:

Very early in this process we described the competing epidemics. The epidemic of disease and the epidemic of anxiety. As of today, 0.13% of the Hong Kong population have had a confirmed case of COVID-19. To reframe this data, 99.87% of the population have not been infected. Indeed the combined population mortality from COVID-19 and Influenza was lower in Hong Kong in 2020 than in 2018 and 2019 due to the lower death rate last year from influenza. This statement is not in any way intended to belittle the importance of this serious epidemic. Data from other countries shows what happens when health systems are overwhelmed. However, whilst 99.87% of us have not been impacted directly by the disease 100% of our population have been impacted by the psychological and social fallout of the public health measures used to control the disease. As an example of this process our MindWorX team have produced a number of resources including the following articles on the challenges of online learning and the impact of school closures on social development in children.

A Student’s Lockdown Lament

A reader has sent us the following note which her 19 year-old daughter, a student studying history and French at a top UK university, submitted to the House Committee on Human Rights in response to its recent call for submissions about the impact of the lockdown.

So far over half my university teaching has been delivered online and over the course of the pandemic I have seen my mental health decline exponentially. I am someone who would consider themselves pretty politically engaged and I have never felt so let down or angry at politicians of all parties than I do now. During the lockdowns, I have become depressed, anxious and unable to sleep.

I have been completely deprived of a university experience – and by this I do not mean partying, but basic socialising, necessary and important for my growth. On top of this, the teaching I have received online, through no fault of my university, simply does not cut it. The idea that you can have debates or group discussions in the same manner on Zoom is laughable and frankly insulting, especially when it is a tutorial group or class of people you have never met in real life. Yet I am expected to pay the same amount of money for this sub standard education, and have no real choice in the matter as the Government has decreed it an acceptable standard of learning. Presumably because they do not want to bail out the universities.

For the majority of the lockdown, I wake up every day and think: What is the point of me going on? Any enjoyment I might have had in life is gone and my future is undeniably bleak. Armed with my pitifully delivered degree, I will be sent out into what will undoubtedly be one of the toughest job markets in living memory, saddled with record amounts of debt, accrued through any number of Government schemes brought out during the pandemic. It is difficult to talk to my friends about this or support one another, as we all pretty much feel similarly numb and hopeless.

Throughout the pandemic, politicians and the media have made numerous references to the blitz spirit, and the sacrifices made by people my age who went to fight in world wars. I would like to remind them that these people came back mentally scarred, something which resulted in record suicide and domestic violence rates for the time. I do not seek to compare my experience to theirs, but I would expect comparable results. My generation will be mentally scarred from being socially deprived, something not helped by the toxic media narrative that sees us all as selfish. Government policies have consistently been made by the middle class and middle aged for the middle class and middle aged, with no thought to the future economic burden on the young. All this, despite the minute likelihood of any of us becoming seriously ill with Covid.

To summarise, currently I feel hopeless, undervalued and betrayed. Government policy has stripped me of any joy I had for my degree or my future.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Whiskey Bent And Hell Bound” by Hank Williams Jr, “Look wot you dun” and “Mama weer all crazee now” by Slade, and “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

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Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s the news that a Dutch woman has created a gender-neutral deck of cards without any kings, queens or jacks. The Mail has the details.

Card fan Indy Mellink, 23, initially came up with the idea while explaining the rules of a game to her cousins – at which point the “subtle inequality” of having a king be more valuable than a queen dawned on her.

After some encouragement from her father, Indy decided to design her own deck with gold, silver and bronze in place of the King, Queen and Jack cards.  

She said: “If we have this hierarchy that the King is worth more than the Queen then this subtle inequality influences people in their daily life because it’s just another way of saying ‘hey, you’re less important’.

“Even subtle inequalities like this do play a big role.”

After tinkering with a traditional deck of cards, Indy eventually produced a system that replaced the traditional King, Queen and Jack with gold, silver and bronze.

The first 50 of her new decks were quickly snapped up by friends and family members.

After the success of her initial packs of cards, Indy then had more of her GSB (Gold, Silver, Bronze) decks created and has been selling them online. 

Within a month she had dispatched around 1,500 of the gender-neutral decks as far as Belgium, Germany, France and the United States. 

Since seeing her decks take off in popularity, Indy has been testing them out on card players who had never been conscious of sexual inequality in cards before. 

Stop Press: Andrew Roberts in the Telegraph signals his approval of Government plans to give the public a say over what happens to statues and monuments.

Stop Press 2: David Davis MP proposed a Freedom of Speech (Universities) Bill yesterday. It’s a 10-minute rule bill so won’t reach the statute books, but his heart is definitely in the right place.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Dr Theodore Noel demonstrates why face masks don’t prevent aerosol transmission

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face masks in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on January 15th
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